Titanic Iceberg Collision

It was approaching 11.40 pm on the fourth night of Titanic’s maiden voyage. On duty on the Bridge stood first officer William Murdoch, in charge of the Bridge; at the ships helm, steering the ship stood Quartermaster Robert Hitchens; Quartermaster Alfred Oliver, was out on deck maintaining the standard composes, and fourth officer Joseph Boxhall was on deck just making his way back to the Bridge from the officers' quarters; sixth officer James Moody was standing by in the wheelhouse.

In the ships crow’s nest high up above the ship’s deck on the foremast stood lookouts Fredrick Fleet, standing on the port side, and Reginald Lee, standing on the starboard side. It appeared to be a clear starry night, with perhaps just a slight haze on the horizon. Suddenly the lookouts noticed a black object in front of them; Fredrick Fleet remarked that “there is ice ahead” and immediately rang the crow’s nest bell 3 times, indicating that there was something ahead – before dashing to the starboard corner of the crow’s nest and picking up the telephone that connected to the wheelhouse.

Hearing that the phone had been picked up in the wheelhouse, Fredrick Fleet asked if there was someone there. “Yes, what did you see,” replied sixth officer James Moody. “Iceberg right ahead” said Fredrick Fleet, “thank you” come the reply from James Moody, before he immediately repeated “iceberg right ahead” to first officer William Murdoch.

Presumably now being able to see the iceberg, William Murdoch rushed towards the engine room telegraph to give the order full speed astern, and at the same time gave the order “Hard to starboard” to Quartermaster Robert Hitchens, who then immediately turned the wheel to port until the wheel was fully turned. James Moody then informed William Murdoch that the helm was hard over to starboard.

Down in Boiler Room 6 Leading Stoker Frederick Barret was talking to the second engineer James Hesketh, when suddenly, a red light showed, indicating for them to stop. Fred Barret gave the order to “shut all dampers’”, which he said was to shut the draught of the fires.

On the bridge, William Murdoch must have watched as Titanic and the iceberg got closer; as Titanic started to turn to port, he possibly may have thought Titanic might clear the iceberg, but it was too late. Titanic and the iceberg collided; Robert Hitchens later described that he felt the ship tremble, and felt rather a grinding nature along the ship’s bottom.

In Boiler Room 6, with the dampers still in the process of being closed, water started to pour into the room from the ship’s side. On deck, William Murdoch went into the wheelhouse, sounded the watertight door warning alarm and closed the ship’s watertight doors from the controls located there. Below, in Boiler Room 6 Frederick Barret and James Hesketh jumped through the closing watertight doors to escape the water flooding the room.

Captain Smith quickly appeared on the bridge from his quarters and asked what had happened. He ordered the watertight doors closed; William Murdoch informed them they were already closed. Joseph Boxall made his way below deck and down as far as he could get in the ship without going into the cargo areas, and reported to Captain Smith that he could find no damage. Captain Smith soon then ordered him to find the ship’s carpenter and get him to “sound the ship”, Joseph Boxhall soon found the carpenter making his way to the bridge to inform the captain that Titanic was taking on water and what he had observed of it. Titanic was fatally wounded; around 2 hours and 40 minutes later she would disappear below the surface.

Related pages - Titanic Lookouts and Crow's Nest, All Titanic Pages

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